A dream come true
07.01.2013 - 20.01.2013
I had to wait a while before writing this entry for several reason, but here it is: my Galapagos story.
I will summarize it as I did in the subheading: it was one of my dreams as a child to go to the Galapagos, and so... I did go. And it was amazing. I fantasized about this place, supported by my desire to become biologist/zoologist, before the boring lectures of biology about seeds and tree branches killed it without mercy. I guess I imagined the Galapagos as something enchanted, extremely remote, land of volcanoes with dozens of iguanas scattered around this inhospitable land... and guess what, that's exactly how it is!
Before the rest, just a brief summary of what Galapagos are: islands that are the result underwater volcanic activity in a specific place... so yeah, they are all volcanoes. As soon as one is born, it is shifted to the right because of tectonic movements, freeing the space for a new volcano/island. This has been going on for quite a long time, so you have older and younger islands. What does it make them special? The animals. No animal that developed from dinosaurs and friends was on these islands, as the islands were never attached to the mainland. So, all of them have come in the last thousands of years on rafts of earth from the mainland (imagine a piece of land that detaches itself from the coast during a strong rainy season as it is eroded away...with a tortoise on it. poor little fellow), has been transported by the wind, or by some other mean. Not all of the animals landed on the same island, leading some species of that particular island to evolve differently than those in another one. This is what Charles Darwin found in 1835, tortoises with different shells adapted to different diet, as well as finches with different beaks, something that inspired him to come up with his evolution theory in the book The Origin of the Species. As for now, a great deal of animals&plants have been found that have been introduced later by humans, as for examples goats and rats by pirates in the 17th-18th century. The islands were a perfect hideout, and provided with giant tortoises that could live below the decks of their vessels for almost a year without water, and still provided fresh meat: you cannot ask for anything better! That is why the rangers of the national park today not only support the breeding of this unique giant tortoises, but also try to eradicate rats, goats, and all that is not endemic to Galapagos.
What about MY Galapagos?
It was great, an experience that I'll bring in my heart forever. And it's not because I was excited about the first experience on my own in my trip, it's just that I know already that this will be one of the highlights overall. I had planned to stay a week or so, but things turned out that I stayed almost 2 weeks. Why? Because of the cruise. What cruise? The one that guides and internet said to be totally worth doing if you want to get the best out of the islands. To save money you get to the "capital", and look for a last minute offer there: I found one, but was leaving a few days later and a few hundreds bucks more expensive than planned, but offered the best itinerary ever. So I told myself: "when are you going to come back? Wasn't this your dream? Fuck the budget, you'll leave under the bridges later, and enjoy Galapagos in the best way possible!"- and so I did. Don't think I spent thousands of dollars, I spent 1300 for a 8-days cruise that usually costs 2600, and got confirmed by everybody I met that it actually was a great deal. But the cruise come later, first is the first week in Puerto Ayora. Capital,but small city, you go around it in 10 min, and you can savor the relax and easiness of the islands. And here started the encounters I talked about in the title:
Iguanas, giant tortoises, and many more. Everywhere. There are two main reasons why Galapagos are different than any other place on earth in terms of animal, and it's something that goes beyond the uniqueness of some of its species. First is their extreme variety that can sometimes overwhelm you: I remember my dive at Gordon Rocks, where for the first time I saw 8 big hammerhead sharks swimming by (I was at the same time afraid and totally excited!), and at some point one of them came closer, with his weird head, and between him and me there was a sea turtle swimming and a few eagle rays... and you are like"oh cmon, really? all of them all together? that's overwhelming". Second is their incredible tameness: they have evolved with almost no fear from humans, and this allows you to approach them in a way that is difficult to believe (e.g. walking between myriads of birds, nesting their first-borns, and they don't mind. Swimming by two sea turtles mating in the water, or having a happy time as we said, and they don't mind as well.) And all of this kept on getting more incredible by the day - first day you stop for 30 min taking pictures of the silliest iguana, while at the end you just mind the iguanas because you don't wanna step on them. The first week passed in relax, sharing experiences of the different islands and other tips for the whole South America among travelers (with the exception of a great but very rainy/muddy bike ride in the highlands), and the second brought me on that cruise I talked about. Here I spent 8 days with some great people, with which I shared the beauties of some of the most remote places in Galapagos.
The things I'll remember forever are for sure the hammerhead sharks encounter, the hours spent swimming behind/beside/above/below the sea turtles, that even after having seen more than enough still remain my favorite animal in the Galapagos, and the last day in Rabida Island - I saw many sea lions in two weeks, but I never spent almost 1 hour sit on red sand taking photographs of this small puppy posing like a model for me,
as well as the final moments spent playing in 1m of water with two juveniles, diving and chasing and escaping them like we were just enjoying ourselves and having fun. Beautiful, and the perfect way to finish my Galapagos adventures.
I apologize if this post is extremely long, but... you can imagine how much more I would have liked to write, I even decided to wait a few days to cool down and not get too emotional about it. But I guess I still am =) I really hope you'll keep on following me, it's so great to know you read my stories... and as a reward, I'll post my favorite picture of the whole trip, that finally does not include me, but it's just... a beautiful picture of a sea lion puppy and his mother. Enjoy, and cheers from Ecuador to you all!!!
P.S. now I'll be travelling in the East of Ecuador (Banos, Macas, Cuenca, and finally head south to Lima in Peru where Terry will be joining me for a few exciting weeks leading to Buenos Aires, Argentina!)